This post is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Flock Not Clock. Members of your organization will share a large number of mental models, all of varying importance and centrality to the organization and its success. So what are the most important mental models—the pillars of your culture? Where do you focus first and foremost? Organizational success depends on sharing the right mental models, ones that are complexity-friendly and promote learning and adaptation.
One of the specific and practical things you can do to build a culture of mental models is to get the entire leadership team to assume another as leaders of learning. The CEO must also serve as a Chief Learning Officer (CLO). This dual role is required not just of CEOs but of any leader across the organization. If managers make learning a priority, others will see it as a priority, too. Effective leaders are skilled “lead learners” adroit at inculcating culture (facilitating shared understanding of key mental models).
If the right kind of Vision is so important, what explains companies that succeed with no [discernible] Vision? This is an important question we get asked a lot. Vision is a function of all organizations, whether formalized as companies, or informal groups of people such as protesters. Additionally, "good" Visions adhere to the vision-litmus-checks such that:
“Systems Thinking” sounds like such a grandiose thing, requiring complicated tools designed to solve complicated problems. But what if there is more (or less) to it? What follows is a short blow-by-blow account of how I solved a small problem using DSRP (Distinctions, Systems, Relationships, Perspectives).
You don’t get to choose whether your organization is a complex adaptive system. All organizations are complex adaptive systems because they are made up of individuals (agents) adapting to their environment. The behavior of an organization—an emergent property of the many agents and their interactions with one another and their environment—is not easily predicted by the behavior of the organizational members alone. As a leader, your challenge is to embrace this reality and leverage it to your advantage.